JARMILA in her own eyes
London-based artist, Jarmila Xymena Górna [Yarmeela Kseemena Goorna] was born into a musical family in Lodz, Poland. Her mother used to be an opera singer in the Grand Opera House, and she kept working until a few hours before Jarmila’s birth. Though her singing style isn’t operatic, she feels that the prenatal experience of being surrounded by multi-layered choir harmonies was a primary musical influence.
Jarmila started composing at the age of 5. Subsequently, her parents sent her to a specialist music school at the age of 7. There, she was trained for 12 years to become a classical pianist. Her 2nd instrument was guitar.
Jarmila graduated from Karol Szymanowski Academy of Music in Katowice, Poland. While at the college she formed a band Sovay, whose repertoire consisted of traditional English ballads from the 18th and 19th centuries as well as American & British folksongs. The band toured around the country and was featured in a documentary on Polish TV. Jarmila had been acclaimed a ‘Queen of Folk Singing’ (Polish Radio ‘Trojka’). She was also active in Poland’s rock music scene by contributing as a singer and keyboard player to several prominent rock bands, such as T.Love. She sang on Michal Lorenz’s soundtrack to the film ‘Zaklad’. She did two in-field researches in England and former Yugoslavia on the countries’ folk music.
Jarmila came to London in 1990, where by shedding the stylistic references of her musical past, she was free to reinvent a truly distinct sound. Her task was to find ‘her own voice’, both literally and metaphorically. She was determined to remove all influences of jazz, soul and even folk from her vocal phrasing and her voice’s timbre. And so, a period of experimentation on voice and piano had begun.
A platform for that was provided by an East London venue, the Trolley Stop, which programmed Jarmila’s Trance-Magic Piano Sessions fortnightly for a period of 2 years. These evenings of piano/voice improvisation developed into multi-media performances. Jarmila would be seen collaborating with visual artists, presenting their super-8, video and slides projections as well as dancers and other musicians spontaneously contributing their improvisations. The Trance-Magic Piano Sessions grew into a ‘bohemian’, avant-garde night (‘Very popular’ Avant Magazine).
The fruit of this musical soul quest is her album Hashgachah, released on 33 Records in 2004. Jarmila brings together her talents as a composer, vocalist, pianist and producer. Her passionate wordless singing takes full advantage of a wide vocal range. Górna's accomplished piano playing is the backbone for her soaring vocal choirs, around which she builds subtle arrangements for double bass, percussion, brass and oud.
Górna's arresting live performances have been seen in many London venues, such as the ICA, Jazz Cafe, Vortex, Union Chapel, The Spitz, Ray’s Jazz and Cargo. She performed in Catania, Sicily 2005, at the Big Big World Festival in Scotland 2005 and Women in Tune Festival in Wales 2006.
Jarmila is also active as a composer for theatre and film which has seen her scoring the soundtrack to the Brunton Theatre Company’s production of Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’ (‘The spirit of a fractured Eastern Europe is evoked by Górna’s gorgeous score’ - Scotland on Sunday) as well as contributing to the multi-media show ‘The Singularity’ at the Albany theatre as part of the 1998 London International Mime Festival. She co-composed and performed the soundtrack to the documentary ‘Hidden Children’ by Sheldon Lazarus (2001). She sung on the soundtrack of the Italian feature film ‘Luna Rossa’, 2001. Equally, she has been a guest lecturer on the subject of extended vocal techniques at Cambridge University. BBC, Polish, Spanish and Macedonian Radio as well as TV have featured her work and interviewed her. In 2004, she has been chosen for nomination in the category of ‘Newcomer’ by the BBC Radio 3 World Music Awards.
She has been dedicated to her work as a private tutor in piano, voice, guitar, darbouka, composition and arrangement within the Torah-observant Jewish community of North London, Stamford Hill. She developed a unique and highly successful method of teaching music without the use of notation (Gorna Method), which focuses on the creative empowerment of her students. (‘She calls herself a “music facilitator” – giving the girls the magic key to enter the world of music making, which they can then develop themselves and become their own musical decision makers’ – Jewish Tribune). In 2006 and 2007 she produced two popular shows – ‘The Musical Malachim’, featuring an ensemble of her students (‘… a delight to experience’ – Jewish Tribune).
She runs a recording studio and works as a sound engineer, producer and arranger of music. Currently Jarmila is in the final stages of her latest album ‘Aspaklaria’, mixed by Grammy award-winning engineer Matt Lawrence. It features collaborations with Get To Know Producer Larry Holcombe and David Farren, not only part of the acclaimed rhythm section of legendary UK Ska band, Bad Manners, but also an outstanding painter and illustrator. To her own surprise it breaks away from the wordless focus of the first album. She wanted to push beyond the luxury and the safety of the abstract. In this album Jarmila is gathering the clouds into concrete form. The album is due for release in 2016.